Legislators Say Setting Cap Amounts, Discouraging Pay-to-Play and Increasing Requirements for Institutional Investors Are Necessary to Maintaining Integrity of Investments
(Trenton) — A three-part legislative package enforcing safeguards against excessive investing and pay-to play for investments made with public pension funds was released by an Assembly Panel on Monday.
Assembly Democrats Ralph Caputo, and Ruben Ramos, Jr. sponsored the package of bills after concerns were raised in the Star-Ledger article, “Hedge fund’s risky ties to Revel casino shine light on N.J.’s investing habits,” http://www.nj.com/news/index.ssf/2012/09/hedge_funds_risky_ties_to_reve.html) This package also would hold casino institutional investors more accountable to repayment of public fund investments.
“New Jersey must account for public pension money dollar-for-dollar.,” said Caputo (D- Essex). “We should always be mindful of pay-to play abuse, more so when it comes to how pension contributions are treated. It’s simply responsible management of money well-earned by public employees to ensure their investment cannot be misused.”
“This is hard-earned money earmarked for the future years of our public employees for which the state is responsible,” said Ramos (D-Hudson). “It should not be left to any one person’s discretion on how it should be invested or contributed. We are legislatively protecting it to ensure it is there when it is needed.”
The first bill (A-3492) in the legislative package would limit political contributions by hedge funds and private equity funds that invest in casinos. Under this bill, the hedge fund would be subjected to same limitations on making political contributions as would the applicants for, or holders of a casino license. The bill also prohibits public funds from being invested in any hedge fund or equity fund that has made political contributions that would make a business entity ineligible to enter into a contract with the state pursuant to the pay-to-play law.
Another bill (A-3493) would reduce, from $150 million to less than $75 million, the dollar amount of a casino’s full outstanding debt issue that would exempt a casino institutional investor from the requirement to maintain his or her good character or financial qualifications.
The Legislators said by lowering the threshold for exemption, the state keeps investors honest in their dealings by requiring more of them to establish and maintain their qualifications for participation in the investment opportunity.
Under current law, a casino licensee or casino license applicant must provide necessary information, documentation and assurances that the licensee or applicant is qualified to hold a casino license, including any record of convictions of certain crimes.
The final bill (A-3494) would cap at 35% the share of the State public employee pension and annuity funds portfolio that may be invested in alternative assets, such as hedge funds, private equity, commodities and real estate). Assemblymen Caputo and Ramos refer to the bill as “common sense” investing.
“Diversifying investments can reduce risks and potentially allow for a greater return,” said Caputo. “Setting a limit places a necessary safeguard on the amount that can be invested in alternative sources.”
“When protecting the future of the state, the line should be clearly drawn on what we will and will not tolerate especially when it comes to the proper handling of public funds,” said Ramos. “It’s just common sense to vary how you invest and have limitations on how much you can invest in one asset.”
The Assembly Regulatory Oversight Committee advanced the measure; and it now goes to the desk of the Assembly Speaker for further consideration.